Notes and Editorial Reviews
"One of the landmarks of 20th-century music… The latest [recording], from the New York-based Ensemble Signal, is certainly one of the best so far. … [It] has the perfect combination of tightly disciplined ensemble playing and creative fantasy. There’s tremendous, unstoppable energy in this performance, an urgent edge to its textures and a surging power to its thrilling climaxes, that make the greatness of the music unmistakable." – The Guardian (UK)
Making their harmonia mundi début, New York-based Ensemble Signal performs Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians (1974-76), a seminal work by a pioneering composer who changed the course of 20th Century music. Steve Reich says, "Signal has made an
extraordinary recording of Music for 18 Musicians. Fast moving, spot on and emotionally charged. Take a listen."
Today’s ensembles handle minimalist repertoire cornerstones with unprecedented rhythmic exactitude and precision, as borne out in the New York-based Ensemble Signal’s recording of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, led by their founding co-artistic director and current music director Bradley Lubman. In fact, this is Lubman’s second recording of the work. His first version featured Ensemble Modern in a performance that abounded with surface sheen for the most part, yet was ice-cold.
Here Lubman and musicians bring more palpable “swing” to Reich’s rhythmic hocketing, such as in Section VI’s vocal lines and throughout the mallet-dominated Section XI. Lubman also demarcates certain sections with ever-so-slight tempo adjustments that add character and contrast, while the wordless sopranos raise the bar for intonation. Yet the close-up recording sacrifices textural shimmer and organic ensemble interaction for clarity of lines (the voices and woodwinds are forward to a fault). As a consequence, I miss the assiduous transitions and washes of color of less clinically precise yet more musically satisfying versions by Bill Ryan and the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble and, of course, the original 1978 ECM recording with Reich’s own ensemble. Still, it says a lot for this extraordinary composition’s staying power that it continues to evolve a life of its own outside of the composer’s performing orbit, and can absorb a variety of valid interpretations, including this one.
-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1976; USA
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